When are your children’s activities worth the money they cost? What about that big family vacation you’re planning—is it something your kids will remember fondly, or will they only remember it as a waste of money?
If you’re unsure of whether it’s a good idea to drop a bunch of cash on space camp, horseback riding lessons, or a kid-friendly cruise, check out this “splurging on your kids” guide at Bitches Get Riches. It begins with a question:
Think back to the times your parents “splurged” on you. In hindsight, you probably know which things you truly enjoyed, versus stuff you just put up with.
So which expenses were worth it? Which ones weren’t? If you could go back in time, what would you tell them to stop doing, or do more of?
The site hosts, Piggy and Kitty, catalogue their parents’ various splurges and identify which ones were truly worth the money. The full post, complete with “awkward kid who hates soccer but is doing her best to fake-smile” photos, is well worth reading; however, if you just want the summary, here you go:
Spend money — splurge, even — on the stuff your kids enjoy
Invest in what your kids love. Don’t spend money on activities they hate, even if you think those activities will build character.
Or, as Kitty puts it:
My parents knew I was intellectually gifted. But most of the things they wanted me to try were sports and team activities. I think they were aiming to open me up to new things? But it definitely made me think that my most sterling qualities were the “wrong” qualities.
I did theatre stuff for a long time, and would’ve sworn that I loved it. But actually, looking back, what I loved was being surrounded by people with a creative, intellectual bent. I hated the way my soccer coaches and golf instructors looked at me, perplexed and exasperated by my disinterest and lack of progress. I thirsted for the validation of being around people who also weren’t good at soccer and didn’t give a shit about golf.
Even as a child, I could tell the difference between growing and going through the motions. One was intoxicating; the other was demoralising af.
Before you spend money on a big—or even a small—vacation, ask yourself whether your kids will enjoy it
As Piggy and Kitty remind us, not all children enjoy Walt Disney World. Some kids love the thrill rides and the crowds and the characters, and other kids hate it—and you probably know which kid you have, even if you’re not ready to admit it yet.
This advice works the other way, too. If you’re the parent who’s thinking about taking a frugal camping vacation, for example, don’t fantasize about your indoor kid suddenly discovering a love of nature and sleeping on the ground and fighting off mosquitoes. Instead, tell yourself you’re not going to throw cash on the proverbial campfire and plan a different trip — or ask your kids to help you plan an affordable activity that’s fun for the whole family.
(That includes you, by the way. If you’re an indoor parent with an outdoor kid, remember that there are plenty of opportunities for them to go camping—with scouts, for example — without having to deal with Mum or Dad’s grumpiness. Plus, you won’t have to spend money on an adult-sized sleeping bag.)
When your kids are out of school, things can feel a little haphazard. A lot of parents I know are racing to cram the April school break with Family Days Out. But the assumption that you, the mum or dad, are solely responsible for planning activities doesn't really help anyone. It puts the pressure on you, and it plops your children into the proverbial backseat. They shrug and assume that someone else is responsible for the joys and disappointments of their lives.
It’s hard not to live out your dreams of watching your kids play soccer/piano/baseball, or to let go of the fantasy of seeing your child’s face light up when they see Cinderella’s Castle for the first time. This is one of the reasons why it’s so easy to spend money on the activities you hope your children will enjoy, instead of the activities they truly love.
But if you want to see that for-real smile, and create those memories that’ll last a lifetime, spend your money on what your children really want to do.